Wells Pirates’ baseball season ends at State semis

by Nathan Curuso Special Contributor

ROUND ROCK — The Wells Pirates and Coach Joe Tarrant saw their magical season come to an end Wednesday morning at the hands of Region I’s New Home Leopards, a team making their second appearance at the state tournament in two years.

Let the record show that this game was much closer than the final score would indicate.

Jakari Hadnot, who went 5.0 innings in the starting role for the Pirates, was a rock, scattering five hits and striking out seven on 110 pitches, the final pitch resulting in an RBI single accounting for the fifth of six runs allowed by the senior.

Hadnot was victimized by the big hit on two occasions, a 2-RBI triple in the first inning off the bat of Leopard’s 3-hole hitter and starting pitcher Bode Stewart, and a 2-RBI single by New Home’s leadoff hitter Ryan Bundy in the fourth inning. Both came with two outs.

Coach Tarrant had an opportunity to play for two runs in the top of the first with Hadnot and Kaleb Parnell aboard with no outs, but opted to let Logan Tucker and his .553 batting average go for the big inning. Tucker took a third strike on a 1-2 count, then Jackson Scroggins and Garrett Allen each struck out on three pitches to give Stewart a boost going into the Leopard half of the inning.

“He’s too valuable of a bat. I could play it over in my mind a thousand times and it would always come back the same.”

Wells cashed in on Tanner Glover’s leadoff walk in the second inning for their first run. Glover took third on a wild pitch after stealing second. He then scored on an errant throw that allowed him to escape a run-down after a wild pitch immediately careened off the backstop into Bundy’s mitt, leaving Glover hung up between home and third base.

Hadnot retired the side in order in the second before a 19-minute rain delay interrupted play.

Parnell and Tucker started the Pirate third with back-to-back singles. Scroggins walked to load the bases setting the Pirates’ up for another chance at the big inning.

Allen was hit by Stewart’s first pitch of the at-bat bringing in the tying run, but Stewart got Glover and Jake Layton looking before popping up Ira Reyes on a 1-2 pitch to end the threat.

In the Pirate fifth, trailing by two, Glover’s walk and Layton’s hit-by-pitch with two outs loaded the bases again. Pinch hitter Landon Grammer worked Stewart to a full count, but went down swinging on Stewart’s 102nd and final pitch of the game.

Stewart went five innings, allowing three hits, one earned run, walking four and striking out 10 Pirates.

With Hadnot’s pitch count at 98, approaching the 110-count max, through five innings, the Pirates whiffed on a final chance to change the tenor of the game before going to their pen.

Joshua Layton led off the sixth with a double down the left field line off New Home reliever Zach Blizel’s first pitch, but ran into a 1-5-6 fielder’s choice on Hadnot’s chopper to the mound for the first out. With two outs and Hadnot on second, Tucker beat out a grounder to short, but Hadnot was thrown out at the plate by New Home first baseman Gabe Cantu.

Hadnot exhausted his final 12 allotted pitches on the first two Leopard hitters he faced in the bottom of the sixth, including two wild pitches to Cantu that allowed New Home’s Dylan Martinez to get to third with no outs. Martinez would be the first of eight runs that would come across for the Leopards in the inning allowing them to walk off the game when Cantu recorded his second hit of the inning.

Perhaps more than anything, it was the 82 pitches Hadnot needed to get through the first four innings that hurt the Pirates’ chances. Coach Tarrant seemed to acknowledge as much when reflecting on the missed offensive opportunities.

“It was close until I had to get rid of Jakari. And then the cat was out of the bag.”

Hadnot, the soft-spoken leader was understandably disappointed after the game, but won’t have much time to reflect on his trip to Round Rock. He begins basic training in Fort Benning on June 25.

“I tried to do everything I could. It just wasn’t enough.”

Parnell and Tucker were only able to retire the Leopards’ nine hitter Ryan Weeks in the combined nine batters faced following Hadnot’s departure.

At the plate, Tucker led Wells with three of his team’s five hits. Parnell was 1 for 4 with a run.

Wells ends their Region III Championship season with a final record of 16 wins and nine losses having won 11 of their last 13 games entering the state tournament.

As for next season, Coach Tarrant realizes he has some holes to fill but hopes maybe a second trip will be a little more comfortable.

“I think they were a little awe struck, but they’ll get used to it. I lose six [starters]. I’ll see what I got coming in and it’ll be ‘why not us’ all over again. You know? Why not us?”

Nathan Caruso is a freelance baseball writer out of Austin. He volunteers as the public address announcer and official score keeper for Manor High School’s baseball team during the regular season and writes for various publications during the playoffs. In 2016 he designed a pitch count form that is currently being used by high schools across the country. He can be reached by email at nacaruso@alumni.usc.edu and @nacaruso on Twitter.